Justin Fields

Bears' offensive problems vs. Browns indicative of larger, non-Justin Fields issue

The Bears' offensive issues went well beyond Justin Fields on Sunday

NBC Universal, Inc.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Sunday's game was going to be a litmus test for how far the Bears' offense has come under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterback Justin Fields.

The Cleveland Browns own one of the NFL's best defenses, but they are banged up, and there has been a clear line of demarcation between what good offenses can do against Cleveland and what bad offenses accomplish. Entering Sunday's game, teams with an above .500 record averaged 27.5 points per game against the Browns. Teams at or under .500 -- the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and Denver Broncos -- were averaging just 15.7.

Good offenses have scored on Cleveland, and bad ones have flopped.

Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Browns showed the Bears' offense for exactly what it's always been: a unit with a few talented playmakers, a developing quarterback, and no real plan or juice unless provided by said quarterback or playmakers.

The Bears' offense spun its wheels for most of Sunday's game in Cleveland. They scored one offensive touchdown that came after Eddie Jackson returned an interception to the 1-yard line. It took the Bears eight plays (four of which were negated by penalty) to punch it in.

Chicago had no run game Sunday. The Browns owned the interior, and Fields faced constant pressure. Cleveland held DJ Moore to four catches for 52 yards.

Getsy had few answers for a Cleveland defense missing several key pieces. There was the third-and-3 sweep to Tyler Scott that went nowhere. There was the fourth-and-1 run by Fields that was stopped for no gain.

After the Browns tied the game in the fourth quarter, the Bears had a chance to put together a drive to win.

They went three-and-out.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the offensive dud in Cleveland.

Fields said it starts with him playing better. He went 19-for-40 for 166 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions -- both on Hail Mary attempts. That's not good enough, plain and simple. With Fields, sub-200-yard passing games have been far too common over the past two seasons. Sunday marked the 16th time in Fields' last 24 starts he failed to eclipse that mark. There is a monsoon game and the game where Fields dislocated his thumb in there, to be fair.

Still, that's not good enough.

But a bigger issue was at play for the Bears' offense Sunday in Cleveland.

With the defense dominating, the Bears' offense had multiple chances in the second half to put the game away.

Here's what they did in the drives leading up to Amari Cooper's game-tying touchdown with 3:08 remaining:

-- 3 plays, -4 yards (Punt)
-- 9 plays, 47 yards (FG)
-- 3 plays, -9 yards (Punt)
-- 7 plays, 32 yards (Turnover on downs)
-- 3 plays, 6 yards (Punt)
-- 6 plays, 14 yards (Punt)

Wide receiver Darnell Mooney believes the issues boiled down to mentality and the group's lack of a killer instinct.

"I didn't like how we just like we felt comfortable in the third quarter," Mooney said after the 20-17 loss. "Just lackadaisical and just conservative. Everybody was just happy that we were winning. You have to be aggressive and continue to put the foot on the pedal and just go out there and punch them. Can't get too comfortable in the third quarter. That's what kind of bit us. Tried to switch gears in the fourth quarter once they scored and it's hard to do that.

Moore agreed with Mooney's assessment of what plagued an offense that felt it had found its groove over the last month.

"There was kind of a lull in the third quarter," Moore said. "We didn't really have no explosive plays. I don't even think we had more than four first downs. It was a little lull, and we can't be like that going against a defense like that."

For a team that had already blown two double-digit, fourth-quarter leads in games this season, there's no excuse for the gas pedal not to be through the floor until the clock hits triple zero.

But, for some reason, the Bears couldn't find the juice to push it down and finish off a Browns team that refused to lie down.

"I just know we definitely got comfortable in the third quarter," Mooney said. "I was just thinking during the third quarter, in my head, 'We don't need to get comfortable. I understand we're up and they are not doing very well on offense and our defense is doing very well. I can see why we would play that way.' We just got to continue to stay focused and get unsatisfied with what we are doing. Stay foot on the pedal."

Moore had no answer for why the Bears couldn't find the drive to put the Browns down early.

"I don't know," Moore said. "A lot of things go into that. We got to go in and make sure that doesn't happen again because we definitely should have won that game."

Mooney and Moore both blamed the players for their attitude on Sunday. There were once again questions about whether or not Fields should be the quarterback in the future.

But Sunday's loss was indicative of a more significant issue. One that starts at the top and filters down.

There's no excuse for a team that blew a 14-point lead to the Denver Broncos and a 12-point lead to the Detroit Lions to feel like they can put it in cruise control. No excuse for a team that preaches a philosophy based on intensity to let up and try to coast on the road against a likely playoff team.

Perhaps the message isn't getting through. Perhaps the lack of a coherent offensive plan against a tough defense caused players to view their offensive series as futile and made them put their eggs in their defense's basket. Perhaps there are, as Moore noted, other factors at play.

Every game starts and ends with Fields and his future. As is always the case, he did some good things, but the totality of the performance was lacking. The poor pass-protecting and uninventive play-calling undoubtedly played a role.

But Sunday's loss and disappointing offensive effort was about more than Fields and what his future holds. It was about a unit that, with its playoff hopes on the line, didn't hit the NOS. Hell, they barely got out of neutral because they -- a 5-8 team -- felt comfortable with a 10-point lead on the road.

Blame Fields if you want. Point the finger at Mooney for a dropped catch on a would-be, game-winning Hail Mary. Give the offensive line and Getsy a piece of the pie, too.

But there was clearly a lot more going on Sunday with the Bears' offensive issues. Something that goes beyond the social-media talking points. Something that might be harder to root out than swapping out the quarterback or coordinator.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Contact Us